EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Rhett Ellison wasn't even watching the NFL draft on Saturday afternoon when the Minnesota Vikings came on the clock for the second time in the fourth round.
He'd grown tired of "seeing the same highlights of the same players" for the last two days, and truth be told, wasn't expecting to hear his name called at all. So he sneaked away for some quiet time on a river near his family's home in California when he received a phone call that changed his life.
The Vikings drafted the Southern California tight end/fullback with the 128th overall selection, surprising Ellison so much that he broke down in tears during the call.
"I wasn't expecting to get drafted or anything like that," Ellison said. "I was pretty shocked. I'm still trying to calm everything down right now."
General Manager Rick Spielman said his opinion of Ellison, and the opinion of at least one other NFL GM, was a lot higher.
"He's very modest," Spielman said. "I know that he was going to go right around there. For a fact. I just know that. Because I got some calls right afterward."
Ellison wasn't the only surprise selection for the Vikings on the final day of the draft. They spent a sixth-round pick on Georgia kicker Blair Walsh despite having veteran Ryan Longwell on the roster.
The Vikings also were able to address some needs, getting quarterback Christian Ponder some new receivers in Arkansas teammates Jarius Wright and Greg Childs in the fourth round and added Notre Dame defensive back Robert Blanton Jr., who could play safety or cornerback, in the fifth round.
"I know they bring some big-play ability and the objective of this draft was to get a lot of young guys that can come in here and compete," Spielman said.
They chose North Carolina State linebacker Audie Cole at No. 210 in the seventh round, traded No. 211 to Tennessee for a sixth-round pick next season and capped the dizzying day by taking California defensive end Trevor Guyton at No. 219.
In Ellison, the Vikings may have found a replacement for long-time battering ram Jim Kleinsasser, who retired after last season. Ellison is 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds, with the versatility to catch passes and block bigger defenders. He caught 21 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns for the Trojans last year and also spent a lot of time protecting quarterback Matt Barkley.
When Ellison got the call, "They asked me if I was watching TV and I was out on the river at that point trying to relax. I said, 'No I'm not watching it.'
"They said, 'Well you're about to be a Minnesota Viking.' I was crying pretty hard so I don't know if they understood anything that I was saying. I'll have to give them a call back later."
Ellison's father, Riki Ellison, played on two Super Bowl-winning teams in San Francisco during a 10-year NFL career as a linebacker. Even dad was trying to prepare his son for life after football. Rhett Ellison is finishing up his master's degree in communication management and has an undergraduate degree in international relations and was getting ready for a job in the real world.
"That's the wisdom I got from my dad going through all this," Rhett Ellison said. "You prepare for another career. In football, you don't know if it's going to happen. It's amazing it did happen. I can't believe it."
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